A healthy relationship starts with mutual respect, including respect for each other’s emotional, physical and digital boundaries. It’s important for partners to know each other’s concerns, limits, desires and feelings, and to be prepared to respect them. Setting personal boundaries can be an ongoing process in a relationship. People and relationships evolve, and everyone has the right to change or adjust their boundaries as they see fit. Creating open conversations about boundaries in a relationship can help ensure that all partners’ boundaries are respected at all times. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself when considering boundaries in your relationship:
Does each partner get the space they need to live healthy lives as individuals?
As great as it is to want to spend time with your partner, it’s important to have some time away from each other, too. It’s not healthy for either partner to try to set limits or use guilt or pressure to control where their partner goes or who they spend time with. Everyone should feel free to spend time alone or with friends and family without having to get permission from their partner or check in and explain their whereabouts. If boundaries around personal space are not being respected, that may be a sign that one or both partners is having trouble with trust. Learn more about trust in healthy relationships here.
Is intimacy comfortable and consensual at all times?
Sexual consent is absolutely essential in a relationship, whether you’re just starting to date or you’ve been married for years. Sex should never feel obligatory, and you should always feel that your partner cares about your comfort and boundaries. Everyone has different backgrounds, desires, and comfort levels when it comes to intimacy, sex and methods of protection. It’s important to feel comfortable communicating your boundaries around intimacy and to trust that your partner will always respect them.
It can help to talk with your partner about boundaries and expectations around sex before you’re in the moment, as well as talking about how you’d like to communicate with each other in the moment to make sure you are both aware of each other’s boundaries throughout. While discussing boundaries beforehand can help, even in the moment you always have the right to set boundaries or change your mind. People’s levels of comfort and desire change, so it should never be assumed that just because someone was okay with something in the past, they will always be okay with it. No matter how long you’ve been with someone or how many times you’ve done something, you have the right to say no at anytime for any reason. Learn more about consent in a healthy relationship here.
Is there mutual respect for privacy?
Everyone has the right to privacy, and that’s not something you should have to give up to be in a relationship. While it’s okay to share personal information like passwords to social media, bank accounts, email, phone, etc. if you wish to, it should never feel required and it’s completely reasonable to keep those private. Having access to another’s personal accounts or information also doesn’t give anyone the right to look through them without the owner’s permission. Even if you have shared passwords with your partner, you have every right to expect them to respect your privacy and boundaries. Leaving your private accounts open is never an invitation to invade your privacy. Talking with your partner about what you do and don’t wish to share can be a great way to lay some ground rules around privacy.
Do you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries without getting angry or making each other feel bad?
As we’ve said, everyone has the right to set boundaries. You should always feel comfortable communicating your boundaries to your partner without being afraid of how they’ll react. Personal boundaries shouldn’t feel like castle walls during a siege. Once you have set boundaries, you shouldn’t feel like you have to actively defend or reiterate them to have them be respected by your partner, and vice versa. In a healthy relationship, both people want their partner to feel happy, respected and comfortable and they use knowledge of each other’s boundaries to help them understand how to keep the relationship happy and healthy. Using pressure, making you feel guilty, or arguing with you about whether your boundaries are reasonable is not respectful or healthy. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe setting boundaries, or your boundaries are not being respected by your partner, that can be a red flag for unhealthy or abusive dynamics in the relationship. Learn more about red flags for abuse here.
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, congratulations! It sounds like there are healthy boundaries in your relationship. If you answered “no” to one or more questions, this could be an indication that you and your partner might want to work on creating more boundaries in your relationship, or that you might want to assess for red flags for unhealthy or abusive dynamics in the relationship.